United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
DAVID J. WHITEFOOT, and ELENA R. WHITEFOOT PLAINTIFFS
SHERIFF OF CLAY COUNTY, DEFENDANTS
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court issued a number of Orders in this case disposing of the
majority of the Plaintiffs' claims. The Court's most
recent Memorandum Opinion  outlines the Plaintiff's
remaining claim that is scheduled to proceed to a jury trial
on September 18, 2017. The Plaintiffs' sole remaining
claim is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Clay County
Mississippi, and several Sheriff's Deputies in their
official capacities, for an alleged constitutional violation.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs' claim is a Fourteenth
Amendment Due Process claim arising under the Fourth
Amendment for an unauthorized entry on the Plaintiffs'
private property by a Clay County Sheriff's Deputy to
serve civil process at the Plaintiffs' residence. All of
the Plaintiffs' other claims, including all of their
state law claims, were dismissed by other Orders of this
Court. See Orders [92, 108, 110, 118].
County Defendants filed a motion  requesting summary
judgment in their favor on the Plaintiffs' final claim.
The Plaintiffs filed a Response [151, 152] and the County
filed a Reply  making this issue ripe for
and Procedural Background
previously noted by this Court, the Plaintiffs contend that a
Clay County Sheriff's Deputy intruded onto their property
to serve civil process. According to the Plaintiffs, their
house is surrounded by thirty-two acres, and is approximately
200 yards from the road, the entrance to which is blocked by
a locked chain. “No trespassing” signs were
posted along the driveway to their house. In order to
approach the house, the Sheriff's Deputy had to park his
car at the locked entrance, climb over the locked chain, and
walk 200 yards before reaching the Plaintiffs' house,
climbing up onto their porch, and knocking on the door.
County Defendants now request summary judgment on the
Plaintiffs' claim by arguing, inter alia, that
the Deputy's actions were authorized under state law,
committed pursuant to implied consent and custom, and
reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The County Defendants
also dispute the facts underlying the claim.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary
judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
moving party “bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The
nonmoving party must then “go beyond the
pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted).
reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be
resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . .
. both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory
facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory
facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120
S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Conclusory allegations,
speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic
arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for
specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG
Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759
(5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097
(5th Cir. 1993); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
outset, the Court notes that the County Defendants have now
advanced, for the first time, another version of the relevant
facts from Deputy Williams' point of view. Deputy
Williams' version of events directly contradicts the
Plaintiffs' version, specifically with respect to the
gate and approach to the Plaintiffs' residence and other
circumstances surrounding the service of process at issue in
this case. Of course, at this summary judgment stage, the
Court must construe these disputed, material for the reasons
noted below, facts in the Plaintiffs' favor making
summary judgment inappropriate.
addition, the Court notes that the County Defendants'
main argument is that the Deputy's intrusion onto the
Plaintiffs' property was “directed” under
state law and that consent was given through an
“implied legal privilege or license”. This
argument is premised on the idea that there is a common
custom or practice under common law that allows Sheriffs to
intrude on private property for the “legal”
purpose of serving civil process. Inexplicably, the County
Defendants then argue that the Plaintiffs have failed to
bring forth any evidence of an official policy or custom that
is the moving force behind their alleged constitutional
County Defendants remaining arguments are premised on the
Deputy's newly advanced version of facts. Specifically,
that his common practice was to post a note at the entrance
to the Whitefoot property alerting them to his need to
contact them, and that only after obtaining additional
consent, did he make further entry onto the ...